Harry Turner's Footnotes to Fandom
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Computers: The Next Step
or Not The Millennium Bug!


Thursday Jan 13th
Just when we thought the 386 had bypassed Millennium Bug and become reconciled to operating in 2000, it suddenly started acting funny today, and in the course of its initial routines stopped and complained of a bad command, and demanded to be given the right prompt.

The Guru was promptly called in, but after a battle of wits, he was unable to persuade the processor to return to its usual cooperation. He's had the thing in bits, and replaced components, but without success. Guess old age (or a faulty component) has finally taken over.

Searching through the literature, Philip noticed some obsolete processors going cheap at Morgan Computers, as a possible replacement, but alas they'd been snapped up when he enquired. Marion is not happy about involvement with the sophistication of the pentium, so we're due to go to the Morgan branch on Piccadilly station approach next week, to see if we can locate an obsolete pentium that's likely to be user-friendly to DOS and Windows 3.1, (while functioning in a speedier fashion than the 386!) and offer to take it off their hands for a rockbottom price... Will keep you posted on progress (or lack of it).

So we now leap to MONDAY

In between marathon bouts of watching Amurrican Football on the SkySports channel over the weekend, Philip has been persevering with the 386, but finally decided it's a lost cause, as the main disk-drive appears to be decaying and losing its faculties whenever he tries to coax it to conform to normal activity.

So we made our planned morning visit to the Morgan store: it turned out that they were expecting further supplies of the obsolete processors (advertised at around £70) but didn't know when they would arrive. Nor would they promise to reserve one for us if/when they did arrive. Which wasn't exactly cheering news!

The alternative was to lash out on an obsolete pentium set-up going for around £300. We were recommended to phone and check if they were in stock on Tuesday, and then hare down to the store in the hope of getting there before they were sold. Which didn't sound an entirely satisfactory arrangement from our viewpoint. So we left with a sheet listing the bargains on offer, and a conviction that we'd probably end up buying a new set-up.

By way of consolation, we went to have a look at the "new" city centre, to find traffic now wending its way along Cross Street into the reopened Corporation Street, viewed the postbox that survived the bomb blast and is now reinstated, had a look at the medieval pubs that have been transplanted to a new site (and now look very Mock-Tudorish) at the back of the new M&S building, in a wide pedestrian area that will look better under sunny skies and summery weather - at the moment it just looks bleak and forlorn.

The landscape has changed drastically, and you have to seek out landmarks like the cathedral, the Corn Exchange and the old Kemsley building (still being converted into a wondrous cine-clubland) to get your bearings. I see that Dillons in St Ann's Square has become another Waterstones shop, while the alterations to the Deansgate premises have bean completed so you can now spend the day-there browsing, with a coffee bar and intellectual literary sesions on offer... wow.

On the journey back we studied the Morgan leaflet and decided that rather than hang on waiting to see what might or might not be sent to the Manchester branch, we'd phone the direct mail dept at Birmingham HQ to see if we could grab one of the processors before they were distributed round to their branches. Surprise, surprise, our order was snapped up and the goods promised for delivery tomorrow! It was too easy... though Cm won't believe it until they arrive.■

Letter to Brian Varley, January Y2K

Editor's Note: The "faithful old" 386 was acquired cheaply in 1995 as surplus to requirements from Reuters, and outfitted with the hard disk from my first ever computer (bought in 1992 and by then evolved into a 486) to give it more storage space. The magnetic coating on the hard disk started to decay in 2000 and no cheap replacements were available. So the choice was between a Pentium Windows system, upon which my mother wasn't keen, and an obsolete Pentium (costing £88 including VAT & delivery), which could be outfitted with DOS 6.2 and WordPerfect 6 for DOS. The P90 acquired from Morgan Computers is still going strong. P.H.T.

one of a series of occasional pieces published by the Septuagenarian Fans Association

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